Does Stillwater’s curriculum include phonics instruction?
Yes, our K-2nd grade classrooms use a systematic and explicit approach to phonics instruction daily. Letterland is taught explicitly meaning that the teacher explains and models key skills; students are not expected to infer these skills based on exposure. Letterland also uses a well-organized sequence of instruction ensuring prerequisite skills are taught before more advanced skills.
How is phonemic awareness addressed in assessment, curriculum, and instruction at Stillwater?
This summer (22-23), our early elementary teachers, SpEd teachers, EL teachers, and interventionists were trained in Heggerty Phonemic Awareness. They teach a Phonemic Awareness lesson each day in our K-2 classrooms. We also use the PRESS diagnostic out of the University of Minnesota to target the earliest skill intervention needed when a student is not performing at grade level. This diagnostic covers phonemic awareness through comprehension and vocabulary development. More than 25 teachers are also taking part in LETRS® (Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling) training. LETRS provides teachers with deep knowledge to be literacy and language experts in the science of reading. It teaches teachers the skills needed to master the foundational and fundamentals of reading and writing instruction—phonological awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension, and written language.
How many assessments do you give to monitor student reading – how, what, and when?
We screen all students 3 times a year in reading using the FASTbridge assessment system. This determines if a student is “on grade level” based on a series of assessments. If a student should fall below the 40th percentile (grade level) they are then screened using a diagnostic to determine the best intervention for them based on their specific needs. Once it is determined that a student will receive additional reading instruction they are then progress monitored biweekly to inform instruction.
Why is Stillwater still using Units of Study?
The Units of Study for Teaching Reading and writing aren’t, on their own, our core curriculum. They’re used in connection with our explicit phonics, phonemic awareness and word work programs. The units cover strategies to build comprehension via exposure to grade level content and lessons on text structure.
Is Stillwater a Balanced Literacy District?
We use a Structured Literacy approach. At Stillwater we emphasize a highly explicit and systematic approach to Phonemic Awareness and Phonics in all K-2 classrooms daily. In our 3-5 program we use explicit word work time that follows the five stages of spelling and orthographic development. In addition to these foundational skills of decoding and spelling, we also teach higher level skills such as written expression and reading comprehension. During our structured literacy block we emphasize oral language skills that are essential to literacy development, including phonemic awareness, and the ability to manipulate sounds in oral language.